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President Bush’s unsung liberal agenda
by Anthony Livingston Hall
Many people throughout the Caribbean believe - as rapper Kanye West declared recently - that President Bush “hates black people.” They invariably cite the erroneous charge that Bush has offered relatively little foreign aid to our region and the continent of Africa as evidence of his hatred. And, unfortunately, his presiding over the U.S. government’s egregious neglect of black Americans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina only confirmed their beliefs.
But ever since Bush launched his Millennium Challenge Account for African development (in March 2002) and his $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS relief (in January 2003), I’ve been arguing that Bush has done more to help relieve the suffering of poor black people than any other leader in modern history. Yet, one would be hard-pressed to find a black politician in America, Africa or, indeed, the Caribbean who has publicly acknowledged this salutary and indisputable fact.
Therefore, since rock stars and actors have become the more credible statesmen of our time, perhaps their endorsement of my argument will inspire Bush’s die-hard critics (especially those who actually benefit from his political largesse) to suspend their visceral hatred of him and show due regard for his good deeds in this respect.
Live 8 organiser Sir Bob Geldof – easily the most recognized, informed and passionate campaigner to make poverty history (in Africa) – has been adamant in his praise of Bush’s efforts. And, in an interview published in the 27 June 2005 issue of TIME magazine, Geldof echoed my frustrating attempts to disabuse critics of their ignorance and political biases concerning Bush’s support for Africa with the following remarks:
America doesn't have a lack of empathy; they just don't know the issues as well. Actually, today I had to defend the Bush Administration in France again. They refuse to accept, because of their political ideology, that he has actually done more than any American President for Africa. But it's empirically so.
Geldof then punctuated his praise of Bush’s generosity, as only a rock star would, by declaiming that “President Bush is a bloody hero to Africa - no matter what ungrateful Africans, jealous Europeans or stupid Americans say!”
But this was not Geldof’s first public declaration of support for or defense of Bush’s demonstration of compassion for poor black people. In fact, more than two years ago he joined a small chorus of AIDS activists who were extolling the amount of funds Bush allocated to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean versus the paltry sums allocated by his predecessor – the liberal President Clinton. The lead vocalist in this regard was Melvin Foote, executive director of the nonpartisan constituency for Africa, who observed that:
“[Bush’s] $15 billion commitment is unparalleled. Clinton offered $300 million, parking-meter money, even though he knew it was a tremendous challenge."
And, in this context, Geldof harmonised his views as follows:
“Clinton talked the talk and did diddly squat; whereas Bush doesn't talk but does deliver....You'll think I'm off my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical, in a positive sense, in the approach to Africa since Kennedy.”
Then, there’s the rock star Bono - perhaps the most visible member of this chorus – who has been diplomatic though no less adamant in his acknowledgement of Bush’s leadership:
“I believe the president is sincere in his convictions to put America up front in a way that hasn't been done before on these issues....If the Millennium Challenge Account and the AIDS initiative go through, we have to be prepared to really stand up and applaud this president's leadership because it is potentially life changing and life saving for millions of people.”
But not to be drowned out by rock stars, actor and AIDS activist Richard Gere became an apostate within the ranks of President Clinton's Hollywood worshippers in 2003 when he stunned the audience at an AIDS benefit - at which Senator Hillary Clinton was guest of honor - by delivering this daring and now notorious line:
“Senator Clinton, I’m sorry, your husband did nothing for AIDS for eight years.”
Impolite, but relatively true!
Now, I can’t imagine anyone will ever accuse Geldof, Bono or Gere of being right-wing nuts or converts to Bush’s Forest Gump crusade to transform the world according to the dictates of his compassionate conservatism. Therefore, where my assertions on this point have been summarily dismissed, perhaps their praise of Bush will help his detractors appreciate the importance of being earnest when it comes to recognizing those who are truly helping the poor (and not just talking about feeling their pain).
After all, starving Africans or Caribbean natives suffering for HIV/AIDS couldn’t care any less how anyone feels about Bush’s war in Iraq or his apparent lack of concern about global warming. Moreover, the only thing that should matter to anyone concerned about their plight is that Bush is providing the most aid whilst insisting that the leaders of recipient countries treat their people humanely and stop hording national resources for their personal use.
Finally, it is understandable that the imperious French President Jacque Chirac would begrudge the utterance of anything positive about Bush’s leadership – especially on matters involving the African continent where the French retain delusions of colonial noblesse oblige. But it is incomprehensible that so many African and Caribbean leaders seem loath just as much as Chirac is to recognize Bush’s unprecedented generosity.
But perhaps the endorsement of these rock stars will help Bush’s critics see that their political prejudices are blinding them to (and making them resentful of) the moral and political authority Bush has earned when it comes to global strategies to fight poverty and HIV/AIDS. And, this acknowledgement is especially critical when one considers the improbability of European leaders following through on their grand G8 Plan for Africa (a $55 billion package) when they can’t even agree on a budget to fund the operations of the EU.
NOTE: Since confession is good for the soul, I don’t mind confessing that, despite my upbringing, my politics are informed more by secular humanism than religious dogma. But I challenge my holy-rolling, church-going fellow Caribbean natives to confess – given the facts delineated above – that the born again, anti-gay, anti-abortion, faithful, conservative George W. Bush is clearly more worthy of their respect and admiration than the backsliding, pro-gay, pro-abortion, unfaithful, liberal Bill Clinton….
Caicos, a Turks Islands descendant, Washington lawyer and consultant to the former President of the United States, Bill Clinton, who publishes his own Internet Weblog at ipinions.blogspot.com (external - login to view)
offering a Caribbean perspective on international events.
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